By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, September 08, 2016 – DESPITE spirited efforts by President Robert Mugabe and his party to deny accusations of partisan distribution of food aid in the country’s impoverished countryside, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) revealed Wednesday that Zanu PF officials and some civil servants were distributing food aid on partisan lines.
Addressing a press conference in Harare Wednesday, ZHRC Chairperson, and Elasto Mugwadi said investigations carried out by the commission in Bikita East, Buhera North, Mazowe Central, Muzarabani North and South as well as Zvimba South had revealed partisan distribution of aid in favour of Zanu PF.
“In all the five districts covered by the investigations, community leaders such as Village Heads, Headmen, Village Secretaries and District Administrators and in the case of Bikita East the Councillors who are all members of the ruling party were alleged to be biased in favour of members of their own party and against members of the opposition whom they told openly that those affiliated to the opposition would never get food aid,” he said.
Mugwadi said some public officials, against the dictates of the Public Service Regulations under Statutory Instrument 1 of 2000 which required them to be apolitical and impartial, were being biased against persons of particular political parties.
“The investigating officers were informed that in both Bikita East and Mazowe Central Constituencies, youths from the ruling party who are not even part of the distribution committees are involved in the distribution of food aid and agricultural inputs.
“Furthermore, the investigators were informed that in the two districts in question, older persons who are not politically active but have family members such as children and grandchildren who are affiliated to the opposition parties are also being denied food aid,” he said.
He said those perceived to be opposition party supporters were also being excluded from food for work programmes.
Mugwadi said the situation was compounded by the fact that the complainants were not conversant with the procedures and criteria used for identifying food aid distribution beneficiaries.
“The lack of this vital knowledge exposes them to manipulation due to lack of transparency and accountability compounded by their ignorance of grievance procedures that may be available to them,” he said.
He said politicians in some of the districts were using the food aid for their own political gains, in the process discriminating and excluding those in the opposition.
“In some instances, community members are not aware of the food distribution criteria resulting in their exposure to manipulation by those responsible for food distribution. For those who are aware of the grievance procedures, there has been no remedy even though they followed the proper channels. The practice therefore is a violation of UN Principles on fundamental Human Rights to Food which guarantee freedom from hunger and access to safe and nutritious food by way of Availability, Accessibility, Sustainability and Non-Discrimination,” he said.